T Nation

Assesing Upper Body Strength

In “Things We’ve Learned” this week, a few of the contributors said that the bench press is a poor indicator of total upper body strength. From experience I can say that I agree. So I was just curious, what exercise(s) are good assesors of overall upper body strength? “The Poliquin Principles” says that chin-ups is the best upper body exercise for strength.

Check out Charles Poliquins “Achieving Structural Balance” article and that will give you some ideas on measuring upper body strength relationships. As far as which exercise is best for assessing upperbody strength probably the most natural caveman type movement would be a standing press but of course it’ll vary depending on who you ask etc.

I know that for measuring upper body power, a seated medicine ball push pass is often used. This is presumably done to take the legs out of the movement. So for pulling strength probably the supinated chinup, and for pushing strength either the bench, incline, or seated military press…

I’ve heard it is the seated military press, but do not know where the source is. But if you think through history, most of the strongman feats have involved some sort of overhead press/lift.

there are many excellent measures of upper body strength. what really matters is its relevance to what you are testing. you have to ask the question why are you measuring upper body strength. If you were a football player the caber toss or incline press might be your best bet for measuring strength in terms of 1 rep max. But if you were a mountian climber you might want to see how many chinups you could do. the test is relative to its purpose.

I would say it would be the exercise that involves the most muscle mass of any of them, namely the machine pullover which activates the chest, back,abdominals and triceps. If done right no other single exercise can be done by itself and leave the entire upper body spent.

IMO there’s no single lift that is a good indicator of upper body strength (or total body, etc.). It’s important to have all lifts well balanced like in that Poliquin article.